In our last blog we discussed rocker bottom/toning shoes. In this blog we will discuss toe shoes or five finger running shoes. I’m sure you have seen these shoes worn by various people both for walking and running. Some people hate them, while others won’t stop ranting about them. So what’s the full scoop?
These toe shoes are designed to provide minimal support to the foot in order to simulate barefoot walking and running with less risk to the individual wearing them than having completely bare feet. The shoe promotes pressure being place toward the ball of the foot versus the heel during running activities. With all of that being said, is this form of shoe actually good for you?
The argument for “barefoot” style running is that our bodies were initially designed for running barefoot versus in a ridged shoe. On the flip side, our bodies were also designed for running on dirt and grass versus asphalt and concrete. The impact that these harder surfaces provide can be damaging to the foot and can cause ligament strains or even stress fractures in the feet. Despite the fact that our bodies may have initially evolved to walk/run without footwear, not everyone is exactly the same and individuals may have foot problems right from the start. People with various foot conditions may need the extra support that more rigid footwear can provide while others may receive benefit from the minimal support that the toe shoe provides.
The other important component of the minimalist toe shoe is that it promotes forefoot strike during running. In other words, the shoe makes you land on the ball of your foot while you run. There are several minimalist styles of shoe that also promote this forefoot strike, but is that a good thing? Forefoot strike actually increases the amount of tension that is places on the Achilles’ tendon and calf musculature which may lead to more injuries in the area. Research has also shown that using a heel strike (landing toward the heel of the foot) during running is more energy efficient. This means that people who use a heel strike during running have the potential to use less energy and oxygen while running at the same intensity as a person using a forefoot strike.
The minimalist toe shoe is much like any other type of shoe. It may work for some people and be harmful for others. The ideal candidate for toe shoes/five finger running shoes would be an individual who already uses forefoot strike while running, lands softly, and has a relatively flexible arch that does not overly pronate (position that causes a dropping of the arch of the foot).
Just because a certain type of shoe is trending at the moment does not mean that it is the healthiest option or the best one for your body. Do your homework and find what fits you best. If you have concerns about what shoe may be the best fit for you, talk to your physical therapist.